New Orleans jazz became known in South Africa shortly after the first commercial recordings of the music were made in 1917, making the trek to Cape Town on merchant vessels from the United States in the early 20s. Bands inspired by early jazz began forming shortly after, primarily among the Western-educated Xhosa nation in Queenstown and the Johannesburg ghetto Sophiatown, an area that became a hotbed for innovation and experimentation. As the music continued to evolve over the years, the ever-increasing level of sophistication gave rise to a new crop of South African musicians deeply versed in the jazz vocabulary, having been exposed to the current state of jazz via recordings and radio in addition to the American groups that toured the country during the period. One of the biggest bands of the late 1930s, the Jazz Maniacs, melded the influence of Count Basie and Duke Ellington with Zulu styles – a mix that made a lasting impression on a new generation of aspiring musicians including Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim. Born in Kwa-Guqa Township in 1939, Masekela began learning piano and singing from an early age, and was inspired to take up the trumpet at 14 after viewing Young Man with a Horn, the American film based loosely on the life of early jazz icon Bix Beiderbecke. The noted English Anglican bishop and anti-Apartheid author, Trevor Huddleston, gave Masekela his first instrument.
Hugh Masekela performs with pianist Larry Willis 11/27-11/29. Tap here for more information. Abdullah Ibrahim will present four shows, solo and with his projects Mukashi Trio and Ekaya, 4/28-5/1. Tap here for more information.